A common misconception is that estate planning is only important for those with money or who are elderly. This myth can cause considerable financial and emotional hardship to those that have failed to plan their estate. By investing the time today to plan your estate, you may save your loved ones months if not years of agony and alleviate thousands of dollars in court fees and/or estate taxes. The most basic way to accomplish your goals is through the use of a Will, which is a legally binding document that addresses how your assets will be distributed at your death and also names an executor who will assist with the administration of your estate. In addition to naming distribution of the estate, your will can also designate a trust(s) to be established for family members after assets go through probate, nominate a guardian for any minor children (or disabled adult children), and direct how debts, taxes and expenses are to be paid (and from which assets).
After your death your Will shall be probated, a process which, depending on the nature of your estate, may last anywhere from 6 months (for simple estates) to 1-2 years (for complex estates). This process will be supervised by the probate court of your jurisdiction.